While companies that provide low-Earth orbit satellite broadband consider the United States Defense Department to be a key customer, officials at the Satellite 2021 convention said they are facing a challenge in making their networks compliant with government ground platforms and user terminals, according to officials. Even though terminal and satellite manufacturers are producing, evaluating, and releasing the hardware in the orbit at a quicker rate than ever before, the federal government is frequently unable to benefit from the new technology because of the limitations of its legacy infrastructure, as per Dylan Browne, who serves as the president of OneWeb’s federal sector.
Browne believes that the interoperability between both commercial and government gear can be a more difficult barrier to overcome than even the construction and launch of satellites. As of today, the corporation has 288 satellites in space, with an ambition to build a constellation of 650 satellites to offer global communication services. In a program to offer DoD connectivity in Arctic region, OneWeb is working as a subcontractor for Hughes Network Systems. Browne does expect OneWeb to expand its footprint in military market, but he believes that the interoperability with the government user terminals will continue to be a barrier.
“We are not dreamers; we are well aware of the legacy infrastructure,” Browne stated emphatically. OneWeb’s network was created “for a variety of distinct use cases, not the least of which are the United States government and the military,” he explained. Coming up with a seamless operation is the main challenge.
The Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet (DEUCSI) program, as per Browne, is a very bright spot in DoD’s embrace of the low-Earth orbit satellite communication. The Air Force and Army have issued several agreements over the past 2 years for testing commercial space broadband on military systems as well as evaluating the performance of various types of terminals and services. However, according to Browne, this business is moving far more quickly than Department of Defense’s experiments. In the commercial, for-profit sector, we are going at speed dictated by all of our clients, such as Department of Defense, and that pace is extremely rapid. We are not going to wait.”
According to Browne, commercial providers are familiar with the government’s purchase process, and “we understand that.” “There is capacity reserved for Department of Defense,” OneWeb announced on September 7 that it has partnered with manufacturer Kymeta to create and electronically navigated flat panel antenna that will be used to communicate with the geostationary satellites utilizing government modems as well as with OneWeb’s low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites. The goal is to fill the gap between OneWeb’s network and the government user equipment.
Even though the industry is attempting to produce hardware that is as interoperable as possible, Brian Billman, who serves as the vice president of the broadband antenna provider Isotropic Systems, says the government has certain requirements. According to him, equipment must be “modular” in order to be adaptable to varied customers’ needs. A partnership with SES, which is responsible for the operation of communications satellites in the MEO (Medium Earth Orbit), allows Isotropic to provide broadband services. SES has been placing Isotropic’s terminals via their paces for both commercial and military clients.
The issue with terminals is that, according to Billman, “we ought to be compatible with not only all of the systems in use today, but also all of the systems in use in the future.” “Every end client is going to be a bit different,” says the author. That is why we are approaching our design from a modular standpoint.”